Arms outstretched on a cold, grey, city pavement, a dead man forever reaches for his cow-hide shield, mutely observed by the outsized , white-faced ‘Pretty Woman’ adorning the lurid red backdrop of the escort agency..
Unbridled delight, hope and jubilation are etched into the smiling faces of the domestic workers as they burst forth and exuberantly greet Mandela in 1994 at the ‘First Encounter’..
Dark face contorted against the clean white sheets of his hospice bed and presided over by an androgynous Jesus, Shadreck represents the end game of a cared for HIV/Aids victim..
‘Then and Now’ is a photographic collection by Paul Weinberg showcasing 80 powerful images. Running from the 8th April to the 3rd May at the Brisbane Powerhouse, New Farm (brisbanepowerhouse.org) the free exhibition documents the work of eight eminent South African photographers who recorded the transition in their country. David Goldblatt, George Hallett, Eric Miller, Cedric Nunn, Guy Tillim, Paul Weinberg, Graeme Williams and Gisele Wulfsohn are represented.
“Apartheid sharpened my wish and need to probe with a camera. But when apartheid ended, I wasn’t suddenly at sea; I didn’t need an enemy to be a photographer in this country…. I am still concerned with what our values are, and how we are expressing them. And I am as disgusted with some of the values we have now as I was with the values we had under apartheid,” writes David Goldblatt.
“I realised that photographic images could help to bridge that gap, or just keep memory of that situation alive,” says Cedric Nunn in his piece entitled ‘Then’ accompanying his photos, voicing the documentary power of photojournalism to preserve and record both past and present.
The individual ‘politically committed’ photographers eloquently offer insight into their work, voicing their opinions, inspirations and personal / professional growth in written vignettes entitled ‘Then’ and ‘Now’, complementing the photographs. Segregation, jubilation, politics, daily life, oppression, apartheid, colonialism, death, civil strife, poverty, beloved local heroes, Aids, and rural life are but a few of the topics covered.
South Africa is currently making international news with political extremism at both ends of the scale in the form of the recent slaying of the ultra right wing AWB leader Mr Eugene Tereblanche and the verbal gaffes of the leader of the ANC youth league Mr Julius Malema. South Africa is the first African host of the June 2010 Soccer World Cup and the display gives insight into the road travelled by South Africans before and after the democratic elections of 1994 when majority rule was instituted.
The rough walls of the powerhouse precinct do justice to the photographs; mostly black and white, they are generously spaced and bordered by white in simple black frames, allowing the powerful images documented to speak for themselves. A shared history of colonisation and social manipulation renders this superb exhibition relevant to Australians.